Things I've Learned about the KACE SDA Media Manager

The purpose of the SDA:

1) to create a K Boot Environment (KBE), in most cases a network-bootable version of Windows, so that when the client PC network-boots to the SDA, it can get a stripped-down version of Windows (using the Microsoft PE (PXE Environment?) system) as a temporary operating system for further activity, such as imaging the client PC.

2) Uploading Source Media. When you do a scripted install, you need a Windows installation DVD image (.iso). This button allows you to upload such an .ISO to the SDA. If you don't do scripted installs, you may never need to use this feature.

3) Upload USMT. This has something to do with migrating user profiles; I don't use it; I don't try to understand or explain it.

Before 7.0, there were two possible products to use: the SDA Media Manager, and the KBE Manipulator. The KBE added a bit of flexibility that the standard SDA Media Manager did not have. Now, with version 7.0+, we have a new Media Manager that has the functions of the KBE Manipulator baked in. So if you read/hear anything about using the KBE Manipulator, you can know that is deprecated technology and you can safely ignore it.

The Media Manager really, really, really needs a help screen and/or explanatory text/pop-ups and some polish. Why the programmers left this out is simply beyond me. What I have written above needs to be in these help screens/text, so that everyone can know these things instead of just the few who finally figure it out for themselves by scouring the web and putting two-and-two together.

An example of the need for polish: On the "General Settings" icon, there's a "PE Version:" field. It needs a parenthetical explanation like so:  ( <-- If this does not match the version of Windows you're uploading, you need to visit Microsoft's site for the version that does, and install it, or you'll get odd/inconsistent/broken results.)

I spent half a day tracking down broken behavior until I noticed that field and realized from previous efforts a year ago that this matters. (And, the "Theme" setting does not belong that close to the "PE Version" field; it needs to be in a "Preferences" menu, so it's more clear it's the theme of the SDA, not of the resulting KBE.)

Another example of needing polish: The "Test SDA Connection" does not test the connection to the SDA; it tests whether it can ping the IP address you enter; if you put in a wrong IP, but one that returns pings, you'll be told that the "Connection Status" is successful, even though in reality it's not. Also, the Samba connection needs a test button; in fact, such a test button by itself would do the same thing as the ping test, and add the additional value of the Samba connection test. (But I wouldn't do away with the ping test (which is the name I would give to the current test), because if the Samba connection test fails, it's still helpful to know you can ping the SDA.)

Another example of needing polish: Under the "Other settings", there needs to be some hint as to where/how to get this WAIK or WADK, something as simple as "Do a search on Microsoft.com for 'ADK' and download the proper version for your Windows .ISO, along with the PE add-on that is not included in that download." That little blurb could save so much wailing and gnashing of teeth for newbies to the SDA.

Another example of needing polish: Somewhere when I was trying to get started with this new SDA Media Manager, while I was in the "Create KBE" area, I was being told to enter my samba password on the "General tab". Well, the only "General tab" I see does not have any place to enter a samba password. After clicking all the tabs two or three times searching earnestly, I finally noticed the "General Settings" "tab" in the left-hand pane. Ah-h-h! Found it! Polish. This app needs polishing.

Another example of needing polish: A lot of the options simply don't make sense to the uninitiated, such as on the "Create KBE"/"Server Configuration" page and the "Advanced Options" page. Short pop-up explanations would go a long way to reducing frustration for Media Manager users.

Another example of needing polish: On the "Create KBE"/"General" page, there are three buttons. Is the new user supposed to know to pick one, or to do one after the other until all are done? He'll quickly learn, but he shouldn't have to learn by trial and error or watching four 20-minute long instructional videos until he finds the one that has the info he needs (please put your documentation in searchable written form, not all in videos); it should be spelled out for him right there where and when he needs the knowledge. A well-written app should never require the user to consult a manual. What is this, the 1990s?!

And a final example of needing polish: On that same page, concerning the "Upload custom ISO" button: does this have to be a Windows ISO, or can it be a different operating system altogether, say, an Ubuntu ISO? I have read that the KBE Manipulator (or earlier Media Manager) used to could upload other OS ISOs (with perhaps some tweaking), but I'm not sure it can be done now. It'd be good for the Media Manager interface to clarify that. (UPDATE: It does not boot a Debian .ISO, so I'm tentatively concluding that it will only support booting from Windows-based .ISOs. Too bad; could have been a great feature.)

I'm not writing all this to complain; I'm writing it for two reasons: 1) the SDA Media Manager programmers need to hear it (and I have no idea if they will through this venue or not, but at least it's now out there), and 2) more importantly, other users like myself need to know all these things in order to be successful with the Media Manager, and I don't know of any other place where all this information is gathered. Maybe it's out there and I've just missed it. Hopefully this will be of some value to someone, and not just me ranting.


  • If they would just create a video on how to use it after every major update it would go a long way in helping fix the issues we run into. - breevesMSCC 8 months ago
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